Mormon Battalion Center at San Diego
The Mormon Battalion Center Site at San Diego in San Diego, California, is one of several historic sites associated with the Mormon Battalion. Others include Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial in Los Angeles, California, and the Mormon Battalion Monument in Memory Grove, Salt Lake City, Utah. Monuments have also been built in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, and trail markers have been placed on segments of the battalion route.
The Mormon Battalion, a volunteer unit of between 534 and 559 Latter-day Saint men, served from July 1846 to July 1847 in the 1846 U.S. campaign against Mexico. It was the only religiously based unit in United States military history. Women and children—families of some of the men—accompanied the battalion; some of the women volunteered as laundresses. The battalion made an arduous march of nearly 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego, California, led by Latter-day Saint company officers under the command of United States Army officers.
Although the Mormon Battalion never engaged in an actual battle, it earned a rightful place in the history of the West. The march and the service rendered was instrumental in helping the U.S. secure much of the American Southwest to include new territory in several Western states. Of particular noteworthiness was the Gadsden Purchase of much of southern Arizona in 1853. The march also opened a southern wagon route to California, and veterans of the battalion played significant roles in the westward expansion of California, Utah, Arizona, and other parts of the West.
Formerly known as the Mormon Battalion Visitors’ Center or Mormon Battalion Historic Site at San Diego, the site was established in 2009 and opened to the public in January 2010. It is operated and maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The San Diego site is significant because the Mormon Battalion arrived there on January 29, 1847. While in San Diego, the battalion fulfilled its enlistment agreement by performing routine peacetime garrison duty, and building wells, Fort Moore, a courthouse, and houses until it was discharged July 16, 1847. Some members of the battalion reenlisted for six more months, some moved on to the San Francisco area, but most traveled to join the Mormon pioneers in the Great Basin and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on October 16, 1847.
The Mormon Battalion Center at San Diego was restored and includes interactive displays, hands on activities, and entertaining presentations for people of all ages. Those who visit the site are also able to relive the trials and accomplishments of the Mormon Battalion through journals of members of the battalion. The facility is located at 2510 Juan Street, San Diego, California. It is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and admission is free.
On June 21, 2014, the Conference of California Historical Societies honored the site with the California Historian of the Year Commercial Award, noting that the Mormon Battalion was a major contributor to California history and the expansion of the western United States.